Monday, August 16, 2010

The 2010 Coney Island Cockabilly Roadshow @ Columbia, SC

Hick'ry Hawkins and the Panty Sniffers.

The rain would not be denied.
Just as the sun began to set Friday the skies opened and dumped a month’s supply of rain on the city in a few hours. A wet patch in a four-lane highway was so deep it almost stopped my car dead in its tracks. The visibility was measured in inches instead of feet and the red and blue lights of emergency vehicles blurred through the streets as the gods arbitrarily decided to test everyone’s driving skills at once. It was goddamn miserable.

Jason and the Punknecks
So, I wasn’t all that surprised when I got to New Brookland Tavern and saw an extensive collection of buckets scattered around the club to collect errant rain water. But that’s the thing about these kinds of clubs: they exist in a Bizarro World that inverts our otherwise Christian standards of decency. Nobody really wants to go to a club that’s classier than they are. In fact, we kinda want to drink in a place that’s 15 minutes away from death because it makes our own personal finis seem that much more distant. And if the acts have lives shittier than our own, so much the better.

Using those criteria, New Brookland Tavern is a well-designed club. Which is to say it’s horribly designed, but it perfectly meets the needs of a dirty, chaotic night of rock and roll. The stage is shoved into a corner and has given many a musician a taste of vertigo as they try to figure out to whom, exactly, they’re playing. The area designated for the audience isn’t much larger than the stage, while the bar area is spacious, open and parallel to the performers. It divides the club’s patrons into two distinct social classes: those who want to mingle and those who to see the band. And they’re standing next to each other just a few feet away from the performers.
The Holy Roller Sideshow
But that’s not the best part of NBT. A lot of clubs are built like churches of celebrity, carefully constructed to keep the artists and the audience from seeing any more of each other than absolutely necessary. There’s no such caste system at New Brookland Tavern. Any artist that doesn’t want to talk to their fans has to go wait in the van until the show begins. When the mens room door broke last Friday, we (artists and audience, men and women) even had to piss in front of each other. How's that for a level playing field?
Have I mentioned yet I love New Brookland Tavern? Because I don’t think I’m making myself clear enough. I love New Brookland Tavern. Love it.
Patron-created wall art at NBT. I Heart New Brookland Tavern.
Here’s the difference between a place like NBT and going to see, for instance, Bruce Springsteen. With the Boss you buy a ticket for about $150, sit in the nose bleed seats and watch him perform on stadium monitors because he’s too fucking far away to see with the naked eye. Then you go back to your car and spend another hour getting out of the parking lot wondering why you didn’t just stay home and listen to the CD instead.
At New Brookland Tavern last Friday I paid $10, saw a guy offer to let the audience staple his balls to his thigh for $100, got invited to a strip club and had June Carter’s satanic love child feed me half of her cinnamon roll. I left the club damp, drunk and pretty damn satisfied with the night.

Hick'ry Hawkins.
Appearing at NBT last Friday was the 2010 Coney Island Cockabilly Roadshow, a tour that comes close to defying description. It feels like a much more intimate version of Lollapalooza’s golden age, combining rockabilly, outlaw country, a burlesque review and … well, I don’t want to use the term “Freak Show” because it understates just how fucked up the entire tour really is. But yeah, a freak show.
Let me put it this way: It’s like an Andy Hardy movie directed by David Lynch, scripted by Iggy Pop and scored by an orchestra of the damned. I wouldn’t have been surprised had I seen a 20-year-old Jerry Lee Lewis come staggering in with the rest of the crew.
The whole thing definitely has a “Let’s Put on a Show” vibe, one that matched the sometimes tactile NBT environment to a tee. One minute you’re having a drink next to a guy with his whole life literally tattooed on his face, the next you’re pissing in a urinal in full view of beautiful burlesque models.
On the bill, in no particular order, were The Squidling Bros. Circus Sideshow, Guitar Bomb, Jason and the Punknecks, Viva Le Vox, Hick'ry Hawkins and the Holy Roller Sideshow. To illustrate how fast and loose this tour is, arguably the night’s main attraction – Hick’ry Hawkins – didn’t have his own band and was backed by an assortment of musicians taken from the night’s other acts. And IT ROCKED.
It helped that Hawkins had an amazing talent pool to pull from for his temp band (called The Panty Sniffers, if you must know.) As we like to say here in the South, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a profoundly talented musician. And yes, we really talk like that.

Viva La Vox.
My two favorite musical shocks of the night were members of Guitar Bomb and Jason and the Punknecks. First up is Polly Punkneck of, naturally, Jason and the Punknecks. Picture if you will (and you don’t really have a choice … I’m the one writing this fucker) the product of a Star Trek transporter accident involving June Carter and Wendy O. Williams. This crazy, beautiful bitch was born for the stage like nobody else I’ve ever seen.
Guitar Bomb’s Mikey Devigne also made an impression on me. The two-piece outfit made an unholy amount of noise and had a kineticism that was equal parts bluegrass and speed metal, minus the corny fetishism that goes along with those genres. In a lot of ways Guitar Bomb was the most “real” act of the night … just two guys in street clothes who were more interested in music than image.

Guitar Bomb.
All in all, though, I dug the whole show. Strippers, birth defects and dirty, dirty rock and roll … what’s not to like? And Hick’ry Hawkins wore his Johnny Thunders coat for the event, which was a plus. I fell asleep later the next morning reminded that rock isn’t dead, despite the long-term assassination campaign waged on it by mainstream radio and television over the last 60 years. What happened at New Brookland Tavern last weekend was nothing less than an underground resistance movement. And I’m ready to sign up for duty.

NOTE: All photos by me.

The Illustrated Penguin.

2010 Coney Island Cockabilly Roadshow DATES
August 20 : Milestone (Charlotte, NC)
August 21 : Plaza Bowl (Richmond, VA)
August 22 : The Taphouse at Ghent (Norfolk, VA)
August 24 : Sidebar (Baltimore, MD)
August 25 : Asylum (Washington, DC)
August 26 : North Star (Philadelphia, PA)
August 27 : The Abbey Bar (Harrisburg, PA)
August 28 : Asbury Lanes (Asbury Park, NJ)
August 29 : Lady Luck (Black Rock, CT)
August 31 : The Dover Brickhouse (Portsmouth, NH)
September 1 : Middle East (Boston, MA)
September 2 : Club Hell (Providence, RI)
September 3 : Sideshow by the Seashore (Coney Island USA)

1 comment:

  1. thanks for bein there and writing such a great review brother. Next time we'll drink some whiskey together if we didn't already do it last time, hell we'll still do it anyhow.


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